As Aristotle is one of the “giants” on whose shoulders Marx stands, we should take an interest in issues of distortion or vulgarisation of Aristotle’s key ideas. It might be that Martin Thomas’s comments on Aristotle (Solidarity 499) carry a “trace” of this process.
One thing Marx and Aristotle certainly have in common is their having been subject to sustained vulgarisation and distortion. The vulgarisation of Marx is a part of our inheritance and that demands we are scrupulous and forensic in our approach to classic texts (comrades might find useful the work of Michael Heinrich on the original texts and handwritten notes by Marx that make up his unfinished work around Das Kapital and Theories of Surplus Value. Check out his YouTube lectures).
The pressures of Stalinist and bourgeois ideology are obvious sources for these distortions and vulgarisations, but there is more to it than that. There are theoretical spaces existing in Marx which have become “entry points” for the above ideologies.
Consider Marxism as a young science in the mid to late 19th century, still in the process of developing and refining its key concepts and categories, as all young sciences must do. Read slowly, and with comrades, and you will discover one of the outstanding properties of the works of Marx is that, though being far from “complete”, they demonstrate the work of demolishing old scientific categories and the creation of new scientific categories. Crucially in that process, Marx is often using categories that are tentative — not fully formed — between the old and the new, if you will.
The following might be examples of such entry points.
Example one: consider the search by Bernstein and Kautsky for spaces into which they can “insert” an “evolutionary concept”. This is in the process of trying to legitimate the reformist dead-end of the German Social Democratic movement.
Example two: consider Marx’s theory of crisis — there isn’t one. Like his work on credit, finance and trade it exists as a series of brilliant insights on aspects of capitalism as it is generalising into a “world system”. Neither the form of Marx’s concepts, nor the system he is researching, is fully formed.
This is entirely the predicament of Aristotle in Athenian Greece. I will follow up with further letters on this subject, and on Hegel.
Paul Cooper, Lewisham
Brain wiring isn't fixed
In his letter in Solidarity 499, Mike Zubrowski makes some good points in response to my article about neurodiversity. However, I think he is mistaken in his understanding of my argument.
When I referred to “brain wiring”, I was not describing something that is determined entirely before birth.
While brain science still has a lot to discover, it has been clear for some time that many neural pathways are established in the early years of life and can also be affected by later trauma. This is the reason why, for example, a young child who learns a new language will be able to pronounce it correctly whereas someone who learns a language in later life may not be able to.
So my argument about brain “wiring” or structure is consistent with Mike’s observations about brain and language development in a social and environmental context.
The understanding of “neurodiversity” that we need is precisely about neurological variation in the context of social structures and our interaction with them — a materialist approach to neurodiversity.
Janine Booth, London
From 2002, the “Stop the War” campaign around Iraq was the main political activity for many on the left for several years, at a time when the left was at a low ebb otherwise. It was educative and formative for many in the movement. That it could organise big demonstrations against the US invasion of Iraq was good; but the education was miseducation, which lives on.
Conspiracy theories were tolerated in the movement, and scarcely challenged even as they were hardened by the likes of David Icke and Alex Jones into anti-globalist, antisemitic and anti-liberal meta-conspiracies.
Social media spread this. Facebook grew rapidly from 2007.
With the shortcomings of the bourgeois media, news sources such as Al Jazeera, France 24, Russia Today, Press TV etc. became popular. RT played into this by hiring lefty anti-war commentators. They mixed real news with fake-left wing and far-right commentary. RT mis-educated a whole layer of people who are now in Corbyn’s Labour.
An initially broad and politically diverse movement ended up with George Galloway as its main spokesperson.
Stop The War's formal link with the Muslim Association of Britain (British offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood) legitimised the Islamist right as the “authentic voice” of the Muslim working class.
STW's shift from being opposed to US invasion to backing the Islamist insurgency in Iraq went with a shift by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and STW from broadly supporting Fatah to supporting Hamas in the Palestinian civil war and their cheerleading for Hezbollah.
After the split in the SWP in 2010, the German–Rees ex-SWP faction running STW shifted it even more towards a Stalinistic and pro-Putin slant.
Luke Hardy, Leeds